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Americans cut back on fast food, but why?

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Among the studies’ findings:

• During 2007-2010, adults consumed 11.3 percent of total daily calories from fast food, on average, compared with 12.8 percent between 2003-2006.

• Blacks consumed more of their calories from fast food than did whites or Hispanics: 15 percent compared to 11 percent.

• Young adults ages 20 to 39 also consumed higher rates of fast food than Americans 60 and over: 15 percent compared with 11 percent.

• Young black adults ages 20 to 39 had the highest rates of fast food consumption; they got 21 percent of their calories from fast food.

• Calorie consumption for boys ages 2 to 19 dropped 7 percent between 1999 and 2010, from 2,260 calories per day to 2,100.

• Girls’ calorie consumption dropped 4 percent over the same period, from 1,830 calories to 1,760.

Though it’s difficult to pin down exactly what is behind the trend in falling fast food consumption, nutrition professionals say a number of factors could be at play.

For starters, public health efforts – like Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign – may finally be sinking in. 

“The take-home message is that public education messages to eat less [fast food] are working,” says Lisa Young, a professor of nutrition at New York University. “We are shifting toward healthier options.” 

Of course, it’s also possible that Americans are still going to fast food restaurants, but simply choosing lower-calorie menu items, now more widely available.

“Fast food restaurants are beginning to provide a variety of healthier choices on their menus,” says Ms. Fryar of the CDC.

Perhaps the most surprising factor, however, is the economy.

The average American bought about 152 meals at fast food restaurants in 2012, down from 158 in 2006, Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at NPD Group, a market research firm, told USA Today.

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